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Janacek and Revueltas

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The First Composition Award Janacek - Revueltas 2008

Leos Janacek
Leos Janacek

Silvestre Revueltas
Silvestre Revueltas
Leoš Janáček (1854 - 1928)
 
He is particularly remembered for his orchestral piece Sinfonietta and for his operas, and is thought of as the greatest Czech composer of the early 20th century.

Janáček was born in Hukvaldy in Moravia, the son of a schoolmaster. As a boy, he sang in the choir of the monastery in Brno. He later went to Prague to study music, and made a living teaching music. He also conducted various amateur choirs. In 1881, he moved back to Brno, and founded the Organ School there, which was later to become the Brno Conservatory.

Janáček began composing in a relatively traditional romantic style, but after his opera Šárka (1881), his style began to change. He made a study of Moravian folk music and used elements of it in his own music. He especially focused on studying and reproducing the rhythm and the pitch contour and inflections of normal Czech speech, which helped in creating the very distinctive vocal melodies in his opera Jenůfa (1904). Going much farther than Mussorgsky and anticipating the later work of Bartók in such styles, this became a distinguishing feature of his vocal writing. When Jenůfa was given in Prague in 1916, it was a great success, and brought Janáček real acclaim for the first time. He was 62 at the time, and began to compose the pieces he is now best known for, what many consider his, belatedly, mature style. A year later, he met Kamila Stösslová, a young woman who who was a profound inspiration to him for the remaining years of his life.

The operas Katya Kabanova (1921), The Cunning Little Vixen (1924), The Makropulos Affair (1926) and From the House of the Dead (premiered in 1930, after his death) are regarded by many commentators as his finest works, further developing his unique style into a language closer to the contemporary expressionistic movements while still retaining the typical Moravian flavour.

Other well known pieces by Janáček include the Sinfonietta, the Glagolitic Mass (with words from a text in the Glagolitic alphabet), piano cycles and especially his two string quartets. These pieces and the above mentioned four late operas were all written in the last decade of Janáček's life.
 
He died on pneumonia in Ostrava catching chill while taking a hiking trip with Kamila and her son.

Silvestre Revueltas (1899 - 1940)
 
Born in Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango, a small town in the north of Mexico, as a child, Silvestre Revueltas showed great interest in music, his early artistic bent apparent by 1906. When his family moved to Mexico City, he studied at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City and, with his notable aptitude for composition and conducting, completed his musical education with the greatest distinction at the Chicago College of Music. He studied the violin with Jos Rocabruna and composition with Rafael J. Tello.
 
In 1917 he moved to the United States to study at St Edward College in San Antonio, Texas, and later in Chicago, remaining there until 1924. With Carlos Chvez he organized the first concerts of contemporary music in Mexico in 1924 and 1925, events that had a great impact with music then completely unknown to audiences in the capital. After a rather long concert tour in Mexico and in the United States, he returned to his home country, where he remained from 1929 onwards. In 1929 Chvez offered him the position of assistant conductor of the Orquesta Sinfnica de Mxico, which he held until 1936. Working together they were able to do much to promote Mexican music, offering a rich repertoire including works by the most outstanding and prominent names of the period.
 
At the same time Revueltas began a very successful career as a prolific composer, activity which brought Cuauhnahuc (Cuernavaca) (1930), Esquinas (Corners) (1931), Ventanas (Windows) and Colorines (Coloured Beads) (1932), Janitzio (1933), Caminos (Roads) (1934), Homenaje a Federico Garca Lorca (Hommage to Federico Garca Lorca) (1936), Itinerarios (Routes) (1937) and Sensemaya (1938). This series of works constitutes a vivid example of his extraordinary contribution to the form of the national Mexican symphonic poem, with compositions that show his originality and freshness of inspiration, together with his technical mastery.
 
He occupied various positions of importance in the musical life of Mexico and wrote music for films. In 1938 Revueltas himself conducted the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in a programme that included Sensemaya, inspired by the poem of the same name by the famous Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen, a work dealing with the negro ritual of the death of a snake.
 
In his later years he was suffering both financially and personally and developed a strong addiction to alcohol. It was the celebration of the success of La Noche de los Mayas that precipitated his final illness and death on pneumonia in 1940.

Why Janacek - Revueltas?
 
As our founder says in the interview published at another section of this page, we find these composers as a strong inspiration for our project as they were themselves creators and co-founders of many ideas, projects and music institutions, which were essential for developing of the national culture and preserving the heritage of national music, including folklore and progressive contemporary art as well.
 
And nevertheless we find also similarity of their own work (not only their obvious physical resemblance, turbulent livesl, fighting for recognition or the same cause of death) worth of pointing out; usage of modal keys, abundant developing of the rhytmical patterns derived from folk music, harmonies based on sustained chords, usage of motives based on pentatonic scale, direct expressive content and strong motion feeling of the music which is constantly moving, inovative and coulourful orchestration... Would they know each other, they could really understand and appreciate the work of one another much.
 
As they both were dedicating their lives not only to their own musical career, but also very much into the support of their young followers, we believe that they would be also supporting visions of our project, giving aid, support and promotion to the young composers and performers from both countries.

The First Composition Award Janacek - Revueltas 2008. All rights reserved.